“…but the idea of attaching blame.”
I thought that was pretty obviously a sarcastic comment, given your enjoyment of Mizoguchi…
I didn’t actually mean for you to take it literally. Mizoguchi should only be blamed for making Women of the Night.
“Some of the younger and livelier animals, as the evening wore on, got whispering to each other that things were not so amusing as they used to be in the good old days; and there were some knockings on the table and cries of “Toad! Speech! Speech from Toad! Song! Mr Toad’s Song!” But Toad only shook his head gently, raised one paw in mild protest, and, by pressing delicacies on his guests, by topical small-talk, and by earnest inquiries after members of their families not yet old enough to appear at social functions, managed to convey to them that this dinner was being run on strictly conventional lines. He was indeed an altered Toad!"
There are humbling contributors here; the quiet articulate sense of Greg X, the assured knowledge and first-hand insights of David Ehrenstein, Apursansar’s range and intellect, Kuxa Kanema’s incredible lists, and i miss the kindness of Myra and others,… Jesse Richards doing his best for Panahi and others, and i slag off one of his favourite films. But a big thanks to all who’ve made Mubi my favourite site.
Sato Tadao has rated Women of the Night very highly. Who am i to argue? My fanboydom will take a back seat.
I know you were having fun, i don’t use emoticons much- a googly can be played with a straight bat
The effect of the early (well, early compared to us fools in America) French appreciation for Mizoguchi is interesting, and I think it goes along with Ophuls and the whole idea of the plán-sequence shot, which we don’t have such a good concept of in English.
Every single shot in TURIN HORSE is a plán-sequence, just about, and not sure if I can think of another (narrative) film quite like that?
I think there were political implications, too, in certain French critics acceptance of Mizoguchi. Godard, for example, loved Mizoguchi and claimed Kurosawa a second-rate filmmaker by comparison. I think, more so than the long takes, Godard’s enjoyment of Mizoguchi had to do with centering his characters as objects of a system, or society that decides their fate, and his dismissal of Kurosawa being around his (Kurosawa’s) emphasis of the individual over society.
“Sato Tadao has rated Women of the Night very highly.”
Well, he also rates A Hen in the Wind very highly (I think I’ve even heard him once or twice claim it the best Ozu), which is my least favorite Ozu. And he also claimed that Kurosawa’s High and Low was untenable, not because of its execution, depth or overall mood and message, but because he believes a young executive at a promising firm wouldn’t risk his career just to make a political statement.
I love Sato, but his opinion veers way too Japanese, for me, sometimes.
Oh what the hell here’s Daney, discussing Miyagi’s death in UGETSU:
Shall the camera be to blame? By dissociating the movement of the camera from the movements of the actors, Mizoguchi did the exact opposite of Kapo. Instead of a petrifying glance, this was a gaze that “seemed not to see”, that preferred not to have seen and thus showed the event taking place as an event, ineluctable and indirectly. An event that is absurd and nil, absurd like any accident and nil like war – a calamity that Mizoguchi never liked. An event that doesn’t concern us enough for us not to carry on, shameful. For I bet that at this precise moment, every spectator knows absolutely what the absurdity of war is. It doesn’t matter that the spectator is a westerner, the movie Japanese and the war medieval: it is enough to shift from pointing with the finger to showing with the gaze for this knowledge – furtive and universal, the only knowledge cinema is capable of – to be given to us.
Taking the side of the panoramic shot in Ugetsu against the tracking shot in Kapo so early, I made a choice whose consequences I would only measure ten years later, amidst the late and radical politicisation of Cahiers after 1968. If Pontecorvo, future director of The Battle of Algiers, is a courageous moviemaker with whom I share broadly the same political convictions, Mizoguchi seemed to have lived solely for his art and to have been an opportunist in regard to politics. Where is the difference then? In the “fear and trembling”. Mizoguchi is scared of war because, unlike Kurosawa, he is appalled by little men slaughtering each other for some feudal virility. It is this fear, this desire to vomit and flee, that triggers the stunned panoramic shot. It is this fear that makes this moment just and therefore able to be shared. Pontecorvo neither trembles nor does he feel fear: the concentration camps revolt him purely on an ideological level. This is why he can make his presence felt in the scene with an extra pretty tracking shot.
whole article to be found here: http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/feature-articles/kapo_daney/
Sato has a really interesting selection of favourites, including neglected parts of Asia, and some films i fancy seeing.
I’ve just been up the hills with the dogs admiring the light on the distant Beacons, don’t want to beat myself up too much over the egotism- what may seem cold arrogance may be more an irritated need to scratch an itch that won’t go. I respect many critics- Rosenbaum, Andrew..- and people on mubi (hundreds, well, more, have brought a lot to the site and i like a lot of people who don’t neceessarily share my taste), it’s not really about being excluded with Bordwell (as if i could be in such company anyway!) as a pair in a corner. David Thomson has quite similar taste to me, and has championed Ugetsu Monogatari, loves Renoir, Celine and Julie.. and he’s spoken for the need for literature and ideas to be restored to cinema (not just visual and formal aspects to the fore): i wasn’t criticising him. As for French intellectuals, i admire Bazin greatly. And Diderot…
I wouldn’t be hard on Turin Horse, which after all is highly rated by people i consider my friends on mubi, but i’m bugged by the idea that this and Satantango are the be all and end all of cinema, some holy grail i’ve heard them described as- i think cinema has so much to offer. The grand souls, great explorers of range- Welles, Ruiz, Renoir, Rivette, Oliveira- must be cherished…Another bugbear is Sight & Sound’s poll; i can’t understand how a magazine run by intelligent people supposedly with a love of international cinema and accepting the need for a more widely representative poll, can come up with hundreds of British and US respondents, and a handful say from China, Egypt, and hardly any from so many other countries. How the hell is that a balanced poll, rather than one that again promotes cultural imperialism? It’s not so much individual contributors as the organisation. So i start finding faults more readily in the S&S Gods and their ignoring so many deserving film-makers
Oh and the other day i landed by chance at a Mizoguchi group page at TCM site. Not a single Mizo film in the top 5000, no sign of Ugetsu Monogatari at all, yet a smattering throughout the 5000 of quite a few other non-Anglophone films. I know i need to ease up on the Mizo fandom, but i get frustrated….Thanks for the above article!
Then before i come on mubi i see stuff on the news; i’ve even stopped buying the “i” paper most days cos i get bugged by unwanted policies and unfairnesses. I was happier when i was young and easy and had little interest in miners’ strikes, apartheid, and so many years of political frustration, the futile sense the bastards- Maggie, Murdoch, McDonalds…- have won. If that’s what Tarr is somehow saying in Turin Horse, well who can blame him? I’m a writhing mass of frustration, and i want to contribute better to the forum than i’ve been doing recently. Some threads seem to die a death that i think some former mubi regulars would have picked up on.
I digress again..
Enough of me
Life is a stubborn horse, kenji.
Well, Kenji, I think it’s an interesting state where a lot of the slower minimalist film making that springs up from foreign countries is actually supported and funded by the first world, to the point where you can point to a specific “Hubert Bals” aesthetic operating world wide.
There’s a film from the Philipines called WOMAN IN THE SEPTIC TANK that specifically targets and mocks this tendency:
Nah, don’t feel the need to abandon the Mizo ship Kenji, (even if his best films aren’t quite as lovely as Shimizu’s.) I haven’t really read Thomson in any large doses, just assorted excerpts here and there with which I tend to have a hard time with his manner of speaking, but those are often the more disagreeable selections of his writing which is why they were brought up by others. I do, however, agree that at least some return to some greater literary emphasis could be a welcome change as the decline in writing in cinema, as it pertains not only to dialogue, but to the structure and depth of the stories, is something which seems noticeable and regrettable in its extent. Not that by any means I am suggesting anyone should ignore or not use the “minimalist” style or walk away from the more purely visual, but that some better balance could be acheived.
By the way, I’m pleased to see that this thread has managed to evolve into something much more interesting than its initial premise. More of these kinds of posts please.
What would you consider a well written movie in the contemporary sense? It’s easy to say that something like the new Ruiz is really well written – he’s just an amazing, dense, lovely writer on every level – but what about the new Kiarostami, for example?
It’s a little tough to answer precisely what I mean since it is something I seem to feel more clearly than I can explain, but, in essence, at least part of the issue is in the idea of “literary” as being expressive, where the emotional tone of the movie is one of less distance rather than more. I love me some Kiarostami, but his observational style and “realistic” dialogue isn’t really what I had in mind. I’m thinking more where the dialogue and mise en scene is used at the same level of notice as many contemporary directors use the camera, in other words where what we see is given the preference over how we see, but where that what is purposefully exaggerated to provide the significance or “meaning” in the way the construction of the shots is used by so many of the more celebrated directors. Tarr’s emphasis on long takes, when compared to Mizoguchi as above in somewhat instructive in this way as Tarr’s use tends towards a sort of emotional distancing by the way the camera use is so controlled making the scene feel as if they were, in some sense, constructed for the camera or based around how they would be viewed, where in Mizoguchi’s films, the camera seems to adapt more to the needs of the story and draw us in to the story away from the construction even as the construction is beautiful. This clearly isn’t a strict either or scenario, nor is it a way of saying one form is better than the other, but that the very idea of emotional distance is something of a “masculine” concept in that is a trait associated primarily with ideals of strong men, whereas films which seem to be more “feminine” tend towards a closer identification with character and story.
As to contemporary films which might exhibit this trait, I’d need to think about that a bit, and before trying to answer it would be good to hear how others think of this admittedly hard to prove or fully categorize notion. The tonal issue is something which has been of significant concern of mine, but trying to pinpoint how or where it comes in is a little difficult, but it is something that I feel is somehow lacking or different in much of recent cinema.
It’s interesting because I tend to think of Tarr as a deeply literary director – SATANTANGO and WERCKMEISTER are of course based on novels by the great Laszlo Krasznahorkai, and he collaborated on the script to DAMNATION as well. Many of Tarr’s tricks – the long winding camera work in particular, seems to be a response in some ways to Krasznahorkai’s sentences.
Oh, sure, these aren’t absolute terms, just initial suggestions. There are novels which maintain set an emotional distance and those which don’t. (I am not familiar with the ones you mentioned so I am not referring to those in either way.) Just as there are women directors who use more emotional distance and male directors who less and all sorts of combinations of these things. I used literary in something of the way I am assuming Thomson might have meant it in terms of what seems to be largely missing or lessened from eariler cinematic history. though I certainly do not suspect he would necessarily agree with me on any part of what I said otherwise.
Perhaps a better way to put the split is something like the difference between richness and intensity in observation or in the tone of the film, where “literary” then would be something more akin to referencing the earlier tradition in literature for using language to more fully catalog or capture description and effusiveness of dialogue as opposed to paring down. This is as much a concept dealing with how appreciation of art itself has shifted over time and concerns about the modern and postmodern as it is more purely in any given descriptor like “literary”.
That makes sense…it kind of reminds me of the career of someone like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, who in the 90s makes large, very engaging dramatic films with the kind of plots (psychologically complex, narratively dense, historically centered) that you might expect to read in a literary fiction novel, the kind that gets nominated for a booker or something.
And then from FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI on he makes films that are still very ambitious but no longer have that kind of narrative ‘sweep,’ and are more attuned to the very specific visual grammar of film. Is that sort of what you’re suggesting?
Yes, that is pretty much the idea I think.
Aw, I think there’s still a fair degree of relatively literary filmmaking-Arnaud Desplechin, Olivier Assayas to an extent, Lee Chang-dong, maybe Hong Sang Soo, even Richard Linklater in a sense.
Flowers of Shanghai is actually arguably both Hou’s most rigorous film and his most literary in terms of narrative.
Millennium Mambo is a clearer sea change in his work. And the reason the narrative may seem less ‘sweeping’ or literary is his focus on modern culture in-and-of-itself, as opposed to being contrasted with its historic development, as in Goodbye, South, Goodbye (another good study of his rigorousness, as he actually structures space and framing around generations in that film), and Good Men, Good Women.
The lack of reference material is somewhat comparable to the rise of independent ‘art’ cinema in Japan in the 80’s and 90’s, in which the question of tradition vs. modernization has become irrelevant. But the major difference is that the Taiwanese film industry has died (Hou’s Three Times was actually meant to be directed by three young directors, but funding would have fallen through), so there can’t be the ‘changing of the guard,’ as it were.
Yes – I would say that FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI is the film that really led me to feel I understood Hou on any level – sort of like a key that unlocks everything else. I agree that for me FLOWERS is more literary than, say, PUPPET MASTER, but I think Greg X was using the term in a slightly different sense than I would.
Has Kiarostami been discussed on this thread yet? Or Jonas Mekas or Peter Hutton?
I misread NRH’s post to say after Flowers, as I think Flowers does still “work” within the kind of paradigm I was thinking of, although I can see it being thought of as a kind of borderline case, where Hou’s later films, the one’s I’ve seen anyway, are interesting in that they maintain the attention to detail but tend to become more observational feeling in terms of structure rather than having a more shaped narrative flow. I’m no expert on Hou though so I will be happy to be corrected in that regard. A feeling of a at least somehow purposeful dramatic narrative structure, think of it perhaps in terms of it being slightly artificial in its coherence, is something I think might be felt as being more “literary” in the traditional sense.
As to there still being films made in that vein today, yes, there certainly are some, but part of the question I am raising is around the area of who is making them and how they are received by different groups. That’s something admittedly hard to parse as I’m thinking of both audience reception, which seems clearly to favor the more shaped films, and different levels of critical and academic response which varies more considerably which, in some areas, seems to me to have become a point of contention, but one which is being argued without necessarily addressing some of the root differences. It is something of a throwback to formalist arguments of the earlier part of the last century in that regard where some are favoring distance and formal construction, the “masculine” in my initial post, which has fit the general drift of “art” cinema over the past few decades, but at some potential cost.
But I would argue that Hou’s early films also tend to lack that literary element, even with the more obvious narrative focus. Part of the charm of something like The Boys from Fengkuei or Summer at Grandpa’s (much less so with the films that follow) is one can see a filmmaker finding himself, both formally and in his approach to narrative.
I think ‘literary’ in the traditional sense, as we’re using it, is in that every action has a contextual basis this happens because of this event before it And in a film like The Puppetmaster (which remains maybe the most narratively complex film I’ve ever seen) Hou literally questions that context in nearly every shot.
With his later films he again removes that context, but for a different reason than in his early works. He was developing the context then, he’s decided it’s not relevant anymore. So it may seem like Hou has just delved into formalism, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture.
“That’s something admittedly hard to parse as I’m thinking of both audience reception, which seems clearly to favor the more shaped films, and different levels of critical and academic response which varies more considerably”
Well, I’d said that part of it is that certain types of formal concerns have become signifiiers of “art film” ( or whatever you want to call it), and therefore a demarcation of taste or sensibility to an audience distinct from both classical continuity style and what Bordwell would call the accelerated continuity style that’s associated with a lot of contemporary mainstream films.
Quick question before I plow through the two large threads on CC:
would you categorize a film like LOST IN TRANSLATION as CC? a lot of the films/auteurs mentioned in this thread I’m unfamiliar with. But I feel like a lot of the films I do watch would fall into the CC category. the other large thread on mubi on CC attempts to define what it is.
to me CC is all about the mood, characters and sprinkle in some existentialism. the auteur lends the viewer time to kind of paint his/her own tapestry of the film, or fill in the gaps.
the other CC thread I referenced: http://mubi.com/topics/what-exactly-is-contemplative-cinema?page=1
I didn’t even hit post twice………………..
No. Lost in Translation doesn’t strike me as CC at all. The closest mainstream film with recognizable stars that I could see the style compared to is Tree of Life.